recipe: cauliflower gratin

Sometimes, you're done with being virtuous. Your plan to eat only gluten-free or paleo or local or raw vegan or macrobiotic on Tuesdays and Thursdays can get tiresome. I know that psychologists say that we shouldn't seek happiness in food, but am I allowed a bit of kitchen comfort after a long, stressful week? I say yes.

I am a recipe hoarder. Don't look at my top desk drawer, full of clippings from newspapers and pages torn from my mother's copies of Martha Stewart Living and Everyday Food (RIP) and Real Simple. (This is before I finally got the nerve to pinch the magazines from her wholesale.) My feed reader is a bottomless pit of saved articles. This is why I cannot use Pinterest. It would be a downward spiral. 

This is all to say that on Sunday night, I fell down the rabbit hole of my collected recipes to land upon a post I saved from The Wednesday Chef last year. Luisa's words are nearly as nourishing as her food, and I find myself poring over her posts time and time again, even for the simplest of things like the meals she makes for her young son, because her words make you determined that whatever she is cooking, you need to eat in that exact moment.

And there, I saw a simple photograph of cauliflower gratin. An bubbly, warm, comforting thing that I would call an entire meal with a small green salad (well, maybe) and a big glass of wine. And it was quickly settled that this was exactly what I needed. As I shuffled around the kitchen, stirring a pot of bechamel and par-boiling a head of cauliflower -- things I normally wouldn't do because I think them fussy -- I felt such contentment and pleasure. For a moment, I didn't consider seasonality or balance, as I always do. A very small rebellion, and oh, I savored it.

Cauliflower Gratin (serves 2, with leftovers)

one medium sized head of cauliflower
1-2c milk (whole or 2% are best), room temperature
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp nutmeg or allspice
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp each, salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F. Cut cauliflower into florets and parboil for a few minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour quickly and cook for 5 minutes until the roux becomes a more golden color. Pour in a few tablespoons of milk and whisk vigorously to ensure no lumps. Pour the rest of the milk into the mixture and continue whisking until it thickens. Add in your spices now. Now you have a bechamel!

Put the cauliflower in a greased oven-safe dish and pour bechamel sauce on top. Bake until golden and bubbly. 

adapted from The Wednesday Chef